About E. H. Taylor Jr.

There's a lot of history and 'lore' behind bourbon so discuss both here.

Moderator: Squire

About E. H. Taylor Jr.

Unread postby cowdery » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:23 am

I'm writing this for the benefit of any BE participants who are scratching their heads about this E. H. Taylor guy. You've probably figured out that he's the Taylor in Old Taylor and that he once owned the distillery now known as Buffalo Trace, but the rest may be hazy.

Here's my capsule biography.

E. H. Taylor Jr. was a self-made man in the great 19th century American tradition. He was a Taylor alright, related to President Zachary Taylor, but he was from one of the poorer branches. Taylor's father was John Easton Taylor, who named his son Edmund Haynes after his much wealthier brother. Our Edmund, at 19, went to work for Uncle Edmund's bank in Frankfort. Later, to avoid confusion with his uncle (and perhaps in a deliberate effort to cover his true lineage), he added the Junior to his name.

As a young banker in Frankfort, Kentucky, Edmund naturally became interested in the whiskey-making business. Kentucky's distilleries did well during the Civil War and even better right after it. There was plenty of demand and not enough supply. Then as now, whiskey-making took a lot of sophisticated financing.

Typically, Taylor would put a group of investors together, kick in some of his own money, and get the rest through one or several of his banking connections. He would often sell out or reduce his personal interest as the enterprise became established and use that capital for the next project. That's why he was able to have a hand in so many distilleries. He was like Donald Trump in that although his personal stake was often quite small, he was always the "front."

By "sophisticated" I mean what we would today refer to as "leveraged to the hilt," which is how he eventually got into trouble with Stagg.

In later years he financed his sons in some distilleries and what eventually became Old Taylor started out as one of those.

The alternative to financing aged whiskey was compound whiskey, a product based on neutral spirits or un-aged whiskey that was flavored and colored artificially. Taylor's defense of "real" whiskey led to the Bottled in Bond and Pure Food and Drug Acts. Taylor was also personally active in politics as mayor of Frankfort and, later, a state senator.

Toward the end of his life he became renowned again, for raising and breeding prize Hereford cattle, introducing that industry to Kentucky. One of his famous bulls won three first prizes at the 1914 Blue Grass Fair at Lexington. He enjoyed entertaining at his lavish Frankfort estate, Thistleton.
- Chuck Cowdery

Author of Bourbon, Straight
User avatar
Registered User
Posts: 1586
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 1:07 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: About E. H. Taylor Jr.

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:18 am

Excellent. And so, often we must recall the economic background to successful distilling, which can be various indeed. Here banking formed the backdrop. For Heaven Hill, profits generated by a chain of clothing stores. In other cases, a grandee's fortune applied with great risk to find greater reward.

Sometimes scientific savvy was the key - or one of them, e.g., Dr. Crow although he never became a distillery owner, or the practical knowledge and grit of e.g., the Beam clan.

The story behind the story.

And it goes on. I view with great interest the efforts of micro-distillers, some of whom participate on this very site. They are doing great work and showing great vision all of them, and I wish them every success.

User avatar
Posts: 2173
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:44 pm

Re: About E. H. Taylor Jr.

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:53 am

Chuck's biography of Taylor has a few things right about it. Taylor was born in 1830 in the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky on the banks of the Mississippi River. His family was actually qite well off. His grandfather, Richard "Black Dick" Taylor was surveyor for the Revolutionary War land grants in the area. John Taylor was considered the son that was least well off in the family, but even he owned several slaves. One of them, Tony, was with him when the steamboat they were traveling on sank in the Mississippi River and Tony saved what little luggage that was saved.

E H Taylor was the great-nephew of Zachary and spent some time in New Orleans with Zachary Taylor after John Taylor died in 1835. When he was old enough, Young Edmond went to Lexington to live with his Uncle Edmond Haynes Taylor, who paid for his nephews education in a private school. It was this time that he added Jr. to his name and kept it for the rest of his life out of respect for his Uncle Edmond all he did for him. In 1851 Taylor entered the banking business with some other investors. Some of their customers included John Hunt Morgan and Cassius Clay. By 1857 the bank was forced to close the books and Taylor tried his hand in many other schemes. He dealt in cotton during the Civil War, with the help of his friend and the father of his future daughter in law, J.J. Crittenden. After the war he became the "Company" in Gaines, Berry and Co. His first task was to spend a year traveling to Europe to study the distilleries in Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany. He returned to Kentucky and helped Gaines, Berry and Co. to build a new distillery, Hermitage Distillery, in order to make Old Crow whiskey. By 1870, he took this knowledge with him to start the OFC distillery on the Banks of the Kentucky River.

The OFC distillery was to be a modern distillery and a show place. Taylor invested in heavily in it. He also acquired another distillery at about the same time and let his son, Jacob Swigert Taylor manage it. This later distillery would become the Old Taylor distillery. Taylor also became heavily invested in the Old Oscar Pepper distillery because he was guardian for James E. Pepper and helped Pepper fianace improvements at the distillery in the 1870s. Unfortunately over production of whiskey and a run on the banks, caused in part by the 1874 election that was very controversial in out come (think Gore-Bush election) caused Taylor and Pepper to go into bankruptcy. The OFC distillery had several large clients who acquired their whiskey and one of them was the firm of Augustus Labrot of Cincinnati and another was the the firm of Gregory and Stagg of St. Louis. Labrot's son and a man name Graham purchased the Old Oscar Pepper distillery and Gregory and Stagg gave Taylor money to pay his debts in return for the control of OFC distillery. By 1884, Taylor resigned from running the OFC distillery and Stagg became plant manager. Taylor sued to force Stagg to quit using Taylor's name and then went to the Jacob Swigert Distillery and turned it into E H Taylor, Jr. and Sons distillery and started making Old Taylor.

Taylor was a crusader for the straight bourbon cause and did use his influence to get the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 passed. He did not help pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, but did use his influence to have the definition of "Whiskey" to be defined as only straight whiskey. His son Edmond argued the case before President Taft in 1909. In his later years he did raise Hereford cattle and had several that became champions of the breed.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
User avatar
Registered User
Posts: 4086
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2004 7:17 pm
Location: Louisville, Ky.

Return to Bourbon Lore

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests